Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!


Here's to an exciting, unusual and out of this world 2009!

Stellar

Clearing the way for a refi, just found out my credit average is 798. The highest rating was 810. =) T... well, let's just say I must have helped him over the years. LOL

Saying Goodbye to 2008

Most years I'm all about looking ahead, in fact, I've already started my mental list of things I really want to do next year. Today, though, I've been thinking about this past year and everything we've done. Here are a few highlights:

Em's first sleepover party! - this was huge, because she had been bugging us for years to do this. Kt has a small group of girls that have consistently had sleepovers since kindergarten, so waiting until Em turned 7 seemed a long time for that sweetie. Of course, it was even sweeter because she miraculously stopped wetting her bed ON her birthday. I think she was happier than I was!

Brought Mir to Connecticut! - Kt's birthday present from last year was taking her best friend to visit Mom in CT. I understand what that's like, because CT is a huge part of me, but nobody in MD even knows or cares about it! It's important for the people closest to you to know what special things make up you. Soooo fun to take a friend to that important place!

A&F get hitched! - the culmination of our first experimental pre-marital counseling guinea pigs ended with a beautiful wedding. I can't believe it's been almost a year for those two! It was really fun reliving some of those early married years with two really special people and we're excited to see how God will use a couple who are intentional about sharing Him.

Aud's Baby Shower - this may be a funny thing to highlight in a year, but this was truly fun! All us stay-at-home neighborhood moms got together to celebrate a new little girl baby that was due to arrive. I think it was even more special because there was a time when we weren't sure she would make it, but she did. Such a sweet celebration!

5 years - this past year marked 5 years since my dad died. I won't pretend it wasn't a really tough anniversary. It was kind of brutal. So much has happened that he's missed, and we've all really missed him A LOT! That event added a bunch of questions to my list I have for Jesus when I meet him. As difficult as this day was, it's amazing to see how much we've all grown, how strong my mom has been and how alive our memories are still.

Key West - I am all about tropical places!! If I could choose to move anywhere, I'd move to an island. In fact, I really believe God created me for warm weather! ;-) This is a place I would not hesitate to return to - I belong there! However, the next time I go, I'm going on a boat with or without the love of my life!

PVC's - I never knew what these things were, but they totally interrupted my life this past year. Pre-ventricular contractions, or early, extra heartbeats. I don't really know what caused them, but I'm so thankful they only lasted exactly 3 months. Horrendous.

Flutist - Kt finished her first year of playing the flute, and she loved it! She ended up being adjudicated with a friend and it was such a positive experience. She's a pretty musical little thing!

Graduation - Seniors. There were many of them last year. We went on their last retreat in March, we enlisted them to go on our missions trips and then went to a slew of their parties. Our babysitters, interns, leaders... it was difficult to say goodbye to them, but just as exciting to know that they are going to change their worlds. We're going to see them this Sunday - I can't wait!

Swim Team - This was a HUGE test of my endurance, patience, persistance, discipline and just plain doing something I'd never done before, in many ways! T nor I had ever been on any kind of organized sports team. We had to take the girls to the pool at 8am every morning, (all summer long!), swim meets at 7am on a Saturday (that should be a sin!), keep them motivated and encouraged, even when "losing" was a prominent theme. It was a huge committment, and I'm really glad we followed through with it!

World Missions - 6 trips, $150,000 short term budget, fundraising, pulling together a children's summer curriculum, building teams, meetings, ordering supplies, travel arrangements for 26, 36, etc., passports, visas, missionaries, logistics. I guess the PVC's were expected, but traveling together to Europe with my family was an experience. Spending a week with other families who have given up everything to serve all over Europe was eye-opening. I dream about Europe.

Connecticut - I've spent a lot of time this year missing CT, missing growing up near the beach, missing my family. Oddly, I've had a few friends mention either knowing someone or having been to Fairfield this past year - just weird. I will finally admit that if given the chance to move there, I'd jump without even looking.

New Job - I've gotten my toes wet again teaching. Very part-time, two reading groups, special ed. type stuff. I'm still evaluating whether or not this is something I want to do. I'm so slow to decide, and I really should be taking some classes....

End of SPACE - this one has been the most difficult, I believe. It's a loss I think I'm still mourning. While I selfishly love having T around more, I miss having students around. I really miss them. It's so quiet around here... and my girls miss them, too. I hope that something changes soon in the "grand scheme" of mission at our church.

The move that never happened - had an opportunity to purchase a house with a pool, and for various reasons, it never transpired. With my basement packed, this has been a tough one to bear. I'd even say there has been some feeling of depression that is lingering over this one - grief? I'm sure it will pass... someday.

D&J buy a house - FINALLY! - talk about stress.... and the one time we all really missed my dad the most. Thankfully, everything went through and they are living with my mom until the house is ready for occupants. It's beautiful, and I'm already planning a party in that barn!

Coco Key - we had a few days off this fall and took the girls on a little escape. We had talked about Key West =), Sanibel Island =), then Williamsburg to try out Great Wolf Lodge and finally settled on Coco Key in Waterbury, Connecticut. Just can't get enough of that place. It was fun, relaxing and some good family time. Plus, we got to see the new house!

Salisbury - T got invited to Salisbury University CRU to speak. It was a fun! Organic communities that are student led = amazing! We also served together with them at a soup kitchen - have enjoyed doing more of that as a family!

20th HS Reunion - I was going to just skip this, but then a bunch of old friends joined Facebook and convinced me to go. There is really no way to describe seeing people you went to high school with after 20 years. Strange, fun, goofy and just plain old surprising. Most everyone grew up, but there were still those holdouts!

Christmas - T and I actually made it to his SAIC dinner this year at the Marriott Inner Harbor - so fun! I then was recalling how none of us had been sick since school started.... and now I'm sick! My family came =) and deposited their germs =( and now I have that dreaded cold! Of course, having my whole family here for Christmas was the true highlight of the year!

Serving together as a family - this year, as a family, we went to Hungary to run a kids program, worked in a soup kitchen, fed the homeless in DC, collected $ for bednets for Kt's birthday and operated the Angel Tree table at the mall (while Em and I ran around and collected presents for a little boy on the tree!). These experiences have made this year totally worth it!

There are so many more things on this list, but these come to mind. I have a nice list going of things I'd love to do in 2009, but I first need to take care of this liver issue. Ick. In remembering this past year, answered prayer, fun and serving, it's helping to shape my list for this coming year. More of this, less of that, growing in Him together a must.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Way We Roll for Christmas!


Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
from Shengrencombes!






Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Special Christmas

I have a friend (actually, several, but this one posted the link) with a special needs child. She has been generous enough to share her story on a daily basis to give us a glimpse into her life with her amazing son, Max. You can read about it here. Today she posted a link to Barack Obama's "Change.org" webpage, where many people have listed their ideas for change. You can go there, register and vote for ideas you believe in. I have to tell you, I think this is one that has gone overlooked for far too long. I can't believe you don't know someone - anyone - who hasn't been touched in some way by a person with developmental disabilities and the struggle it is for families to provide for them - physically, emotionally, socially and financially. If you have a minute, vote for this - it just needs to happen!!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Faithful

My favorite Christmas song, as defined by Merriam-Webster.

Oh, come all ye FAITHFUL

Pronunciation:
\ˈfāth-fəl\
Function:
adjective
Date:
14th century
1obsolete : full of faith
2
: steadfast in affection or allegiance : loyal
3
: firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty : conscientious
4: given with strong assurance : binding faithful promise>
5: true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original faithful copy>

joyful
and trimphant

Pronunciation:
\trī-ˈəm(p)-fənt\
Function:
adjective
Date:
15th century
1: victorious , conquering <triumphant armies>
2
archaic : of or relating to a triumph
3
: rejoicing for or celebrating victory triumphant shout>
4: notably successful triumphant performance>


Oh, come ye oh, come ye to
Bethlehem.



Come

\ˈkəm\
Function:
verb
Inflected Form(s):
came\ˈkām\ ; come; com·ing \ˈkə-miŋ\
Etymology:
Middle English, from Old English cuman; akin to Old High German queman to come, Latin venire, Greek bainein to walk, go
Date:
before 12th century
intransitive verb
1 a
: to move toward something : approach <come here> b: to move or journey to a vicinity with a specified purpose <come see us> <come and see what's going on> c (1): to reach a particular station in a series come to the section on health> (2): to arrive in due course come> d (1): to approach in kind or quality comes near perfection> (2): to reach a condition or conclusion <came to regard him as a friend> <come to think of it, you may be right> e (1): to advance toward accomplishment : come along coming nicely> (2): to advance in a particular manner <come running when I call> (3): to advance, rise, or improve in rank or condition come a long way> f: extend came to her ankles>
2 a (1): to arrive at a particular place, end, result, or conclusion <came to his senses> <come untied> (2): amount come to more than it's worth> b (1): to appear to the mind came to them> (2): to appear on a scene : make an appearance come equipped to learn any language> c (1): happen , occur come to you> (2): to come to pass : take place —used in the subjunctive with inverted subject and verb to express the particular time or occasion <come spring the days will be longer> d: originate , arise comes from grapes> come of sturdy stock> e: to enter or assume a condition, position, or relation came into action> f: to fall within a field of view or a range of application comes within the terms of the treaty> g: to issue forth came from her throat> h: to take form comes> i: to be available comes in several sizes> come> joften vulgar : to experience orgasm
3
: to fall to a person in a division or inheritance of property
4
obsolete : to become moved favorably :
relent

5
: to turn out to be come cheap>
6: become came true>

and BEHOLD
Pronunciation:
\bi-ˈhōld, bē-\
Function:
verb
Inflected Form(s):
be·held \-ˈheld\ ; be·hold·ing
Etymology:
Middle English, to keep, behold, from Old English behealdan, from be- + healdan to hold
Date:
before 12th century
transitive verb 1 : to perceive through sight or apprehension : see
2 : to gaze upon : observe

Him

Je·sus
Pronunciation:
\ˈjē-zəs, -zəz also -ˌzəs and -ˌzəz\
Function:
noun
Etymology:
Late Latin, from Greek Iēsous, from Hebrew Yēshūaʽ
Date:
before 12th century
1: the Jewish religious teacher whose life, death, and resurrection as reported by the Evangelists are the basis of the Christian message of salvation —called also Jesus Christ
2
Christian Science : the highest human corporeal concept of the divine idea rebuking and destroying error and bringing to light man's immortality

Born

Pronunciation:
\ˈbȯrn\
Function:
adjective
Etymology:
Middle English, from Old English boren, past participle of beran to carry — more at bear
Date:
before 12th century
1 a: brought forth by or as if by birth b: native —usually used in combination born> c: deriving or resulting from —usually used in combination born crime>
2 a
: having from birth specified qualities born leader> b: being in specified circumstances from birth born> <born to wealth>
3
: destined from or as if from birth <born to succeed>

the King

Pronunciation:
\ˈkiŋ\
Function:
noun
Etymology:
Middle English, from Old English cyning; akin to Old High German kuning king, Old English cynn kin
Date:
before 12th century
1 a: a male monarch of a major territorial unit ; especially : one whose position is hereditary and who rules for life b: a paramount chief
2
capitalized :
god , christ
3
: one that holds a preeminent position ; especially : a chief among competitors
4: the principal piece of each color in chess having the power to move ordinarily one square in any direction and to capture opposing pieces but being obliged never to enter or remain in check
5
: a playing card marked with a stylized figure of a king
6: a checker that has been crowned

of Angels.

Pronunciation:
\ˈān-jəl\
Function:
noun
Etymology:
Middle English, from Old English engel & Anglo-French angele; both from Late Latin angelus, from Greek angelos, literally, messenger
Date:
before 12th century
1 a: a spiritual being superior to humans in power and intelligence ; especially : one in the lowest rank in the celestial hierarchy bplural : an order of angels — see celestial hierarchy
2
: an attendant spirit or guardian
3
: a usually white-robed winged figure of human form in fine art
4
: messenger , harbinger <angel of death>
5: a person like an angel (as in looks or behavior)
6
Christian Science : inspiration from God
7
: one (as a backer of a theatrical venture) who aids or supports with money or influence

Oh, come let us ADORE him

Pronunciation:
\ə-ˈdȯr\
Function:
transitive verb
Inflected Form(s):
adored; ador·ing
Etymology:
Middle English adouren, from Anglo-French aurer, adourer, from Latin adorare, from ad- + orare to speak, pray — more at oration
Date:
14th century
1 : to worship or honor as a deity or as divine
2 : to regard with loving admiration and devotion <adored his wife>
3
: to be very fond of <adores pecan pie>

Oh, COME let us adore him

Oh, come let us adore HIM

Christ

Pronunciation:
\ˈkrīst\
Function:
noun
Etymology:
Middle English Crist, from Old English, from Latin Christus, from Greek Christos, literally, anointed, from chriein
Date:
before 12th century
1: messiah
2
: jesus
3
: an ideal type of humanity
4
Christian Science : the ideal truth that comes as a divine manifestation of God to destroy incarnate error

the Lord.

Pronunciation:
\ˈlȯrd\
Function:
noun
Etymology:
Middle English loverd, lord, from Old English hlāford, from hlāf loaf + weard keeper — more at loaf, ward
Date:
before 12th century
1: one having power and authority over others: a: a ruler by hereditary right or preeminence to whom service and obedience are due b: one of whom a fee or estate is held in feudal tenure c: an owner of land or other real property dobsolete : the male head of a household e: husband f: one that has achieved mastery or that exercises leadership or great power in some area lord>
2
capitalized a: god 1
b: jesus
3
: a man of rank or high position: as a: a feudal tenant whose right or title comes directly from the king b: a British nobleman: as (1): baron 2a (2): a hereditary peer of the rank of marquess, earl, or viscount (3): the son of a duke or a marquess or the eldest son of an earl (4): a bishop of the Church of England cplural capitalized : house of lords
4
—used as a British title: as a—used as part of an official title <Lord Advocate><Lord Mayor> b—used informally in place of the full title for a marquess, earl, or viscount c—used for a baron d—used by courtesy before the name and surname of a younger son of a duke or a marquess
5
: a person chosen to preside over a festival

The Birthday Girl



So, today's the day. Kt is 11. Her best friend spent the night in her new bedroom (finally finished and her mess has moved in!), they were awoken this morning by the dad who handed her a birthday iPod (we'll see how long she can keep it pristine... as he lectured her on how easily it can be scratched!) and now they are trying to wake up to the loudest TV downstairs. Where did the time go??

I know that parents everywhere must feel like their kids teach them innumerable things about life, and that is certainly the case with Kt. Most of the time, since she started talking like an adult at about 18 months old, I've felt like she is smarter than I am! And she very well might be. She has asked me questions I never thought of (more than I could write in a book!), she has dreamed bigger dreams than I ever dreamed, she has gone to places I've only heard about and farther than I did as a child and her aspirations go far beyond anything I ever anticipated my child ever envisioning. Somehow, it's just not enough for her to be a kid growing up in the 'burbs - it's like she feels stuck in an 11 year old body!

But God has her there for a reason. I am amazed watching how He develops her, teaches her, introduces her to His plan for her life. As we planned her birthday party this year, I wasn't really sure how this would work. She wanted to do something different - we'd talked about this for years - that didn't involve her receiving anything, but involved her friends in doing something bigger than themselves. Her passion for Africa has been apparent since attending Teen Mission camp in Florida with T at the age of 6. She decided to use her birthday as an opportunity for others to invest in something she believes in - mosquito nets for families in Africa. Still, I was a little concerned about how she would really feel about this endeavor. But that all washed away with the squeal of delight that pierced my ears after her party, when she jumped around our room with all the money in her hands yelling "14 bed nets, 14 bed nets!". I'm not sure why I was so concerned in the first place!

I guess the most amazing thing we can learn from our children is about the heart of God. He cares about the smallest things, the largest things, and most importantly, He infuses joy in our hearts when we see the world through His eyes. I see it's so much more than bed nets that He is pouring into Kt's heart and mind, but I also see that it will happen in His time.... and that's what we're trying to help her understand!

Happy Birthday, to the girl with the softest heart I know.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Cards

I sat down last Friday night, wrote out all the cards/addresses by hand because our printer is broken, stamped them, got them ready to go - all by my lonesome. They are still sitting on my couch!! I've asked for the myriads of folks who are always going out to take them, PLEASE, to a mailbox with no luck!! As I waited today for Kt to be ready to go to Harris Teeter - where I never shop, but she needed to run into CVS for a Christmas present for her friend who is arriving momentarily - I had my eye on those cards. Wouldn't you know it? I forgot them. It will be a miracle if we ever get those dang things in the mail.=/

Holy Night


Friday, December 19, 2008

Spaces

We have FINALLY finished up Katie's room, with just a few minor details left to take care of... like blinds, curtains, mattress cover, and the entire closet - no big whoop! LOL We are moving the desk out of our bedroom that currently serves as our TV stand and moving the actual TV stand that has embarrassingly been in our unused foyer for longer than I care to admit!! I'm happy to have all these things rearranged and in proper spaces. The sad thing is that I've never really had a space of my own. Do any moms?? T has always had his "office" and I typically get a desk... that we keep in the bedroom. No chair or anything! Now that will be gone and I'm wondering if I should stake a claim to some space in this house. Or is that just being really selfish. I don't know. Any thoughts?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rick Warren and Obama

This is something I'm still processing myself. Rick Warren was asked by Obama to give the invocation at the inauguration. A few things are puzzling to me about this. First of all, I really did get the impression from Rick Warren that he was disturbed by Obama after the Saddleback forum. I don't know if this is Obama's way of trying to erase that embarrassing ordeal or if he genuinely likes Warren - I'm kind of skeptical about that. Secondly, I don't know that I agree that Rick Warren is accepted in mainstream evangelical circles as a representative, so to speak. I know plenty of evangelical churches who are anti-Purpose-Driven-anything!! Thirdly, I think the gay activists really do have a bone to pick here. Obama could have chosen from MANY well-known, highly respected "evangelical" Christian leaders who are not in the dead center of a very controversial Proposition 8. He is either really brazen and definitely making a statement to the gay community OR he doesn't really have connections within the evangelical Christian community. I'm kind of surprised he didn't go with Bill Hybels on this one.... personally, I would have chosen Mark Batterson, Erwin McManus or Jeremy DelRio (had to throw that one in... would be a good connection for obama! ;-)). In any respect, the controversy is expected, the motive is debatable!

Incidentally, I'm going to predict that Obama is as intrigued as I am with Saddleback's PEACE plan.... that's the one thing that would win me over to Rick Warren!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Doing Something Different

I'm mixing it up - or not - this year by doing something I've never done before - I'm going to cut down on that Christmas baking. I don't know if it's the "liver in a quiver" thing, laziness or just plain old running out of time, but I'm just thinking that not many teachers want lots of cookies. I really don't have the time - between painting, shopping, cleaning, parties and concerts, I just don't have one large chunk of time to devote to baking before Friday, which is the last day of school for the girls. I think we'll all be healthier for it!

I also had a long discussion with my aunt today about Christmas dinner, which is here again. She suggested we order dinner from Mimi's Cafe, which we love. I have to admit, when she first suggested it I was really skeptical, but then when we weighed all the benefits of how we could feed the close to 20 folks on Christmas day without the hassle of organizing oven space, timing it all and guessing on amounts, I think we both decided this might work. Of course, there are a few things I'll miss (the stuffing INSIDE the turkey... and smell of it cooking all day!), things I will just have to cook myself (the stuffing!) and the idea of "hosting" people with food I did not prepare. In the end, I'm thinking it will be nice to blame the third party for the dry turkey meat. I did put my foot down when she brought up Bob Evans... not having that for Christmas day - no way!

Sometimes changing things up is good. They say it's great for your muscles and I believe it's great for your heart as well. I would love to focus on other Christmassy things on Christmas day, not just stressing about orchestrating the perfect dinner. I also want everyone to feel like they are welcomed, wanted and to enjoy the company of family and friends - not like I didn't think about them because the mashed potatoes ran out! We are going to work out some different muscles for this meal, skip the cookies and possibly even try something new - eggnog, anyone?

Monday, December 15, 2008

2008 Recap

OK, folks. Here's my sorry and yet to be edited attempt at a Christmas something for this year. I apologize for the strangeness, but it's the best I could do!! It's the kind of letter one might skim over and mix up so as to think that I may have actually had a heart attack or something - oh, well!

2008 Recap

Nontraditional Version - 12 Months of 2008

(acapella - trust me, you don’t want to hear me sing it!)

In the first month of 2008 my family gave to me, strep throat and Kt’s first band concert.

In the second month called February my children gave to me, fake snow storms mixed with warm birthday wishes and a healthy month of Valentining.

In the third month of oh-eight we spent some time up north… Easter in Connecticut, a new boutique for shopping (Mon Amie in Ellicott City – you should try it!) and more sick kids than a mother should have to deal with!

In the fourth month of April, we set our plans in full gear… a second trip to Hungary, a team of 26 traveling, 5 more teams to manage and a trip to Key West for an early anniversary.

In the fifth month of this past year I spent some time with the cardiologist (try to sing THAT word!) with pre-ventricular contractions (S-T-R-E-S-S), the girls finishing up gymnastics, Em’s beta fish getting sick, crazy fundraising events and another band concert to round out the school year!

In the sixth month of this year we were really gaining ground…

6 summer trips, 5 days in Savannah (might have been more?), 4 family members preparing to travel outside the country (sorry, took some liberty with that one), 3 months and our summer trips are over, 2 girls joining swim team for the first time and 1 beta fish that bit the aqua dust.

(Em asked for a horse to take it’s place – not happening!)

In the seventh month called July the girls spent time with Mom in Fairfield…

The fireworks at the beach, parents scrambling up on the fourth, taking a break from swim meets, getting ready for our missions trip, maxing out the church’s credit cards, finalizing plans for 36 in Paris and wondering if we were as crazy as everyone thought we were. (It’s official – we’re crazy!)

In the eighth month of this past year we spent some time with friends – who gave up cushy lives in suburbia, to serve in spiritual darkness, who plant churches all over Europe, whose kids don’t know where they’re from, who live in different cultures, learning languages they don’t understand, loving people they don’t even know in the name of One who came to love us all.

In the ninth month of 2008, September is it’s name…. Our girls went back to school, the girls playing piano, Kt still fluting, Em starting dance class, D teaching reading, T still loving his 40 hour workweeks, normal crazy lives again, starting to renovate Kt’s room with T’s debut Pergo flooring project.

In the tenth month of 2008 we started to get used to: No more SPACE in our lives, a break from student ministry, new missions objectives at our church, lots of searching in our own hearts, wondering where we belong, choosing to stay where we were, getting more involved in leadership, the Sh girls growing at Girls Grace Adventure, making broader connections with some training for T in Minnesota.

In the eleventh month of November we took a mini trip to Coco Key in Connecticut – indoor waterpark fun, checking out Uncle D’s new house, killing mice there with Aunt J (actually, we let her do that!), Kt signed us up to coach a book club, this book club is more of a battle, it involves us reading LOTS of books, and training all her friends, to do battle with other fifth graders, we are crazy once again…. So we took another Connecticut break for Thanksgiving. (Oh, and I had my 20th high school reunion…’nuff said about that!)

In the final month of 2008, December is it’s name… we remember our Savior’s birth, 11 donkeys braying, 10 cows a-mooing, 9 shepherds in awe, 8 hours in a cold stable (probably more!), 7 smelly swine, 6 geese a laying,

5… well, you get the picture. Not pleasant at all!

4 calling birds, 3 wise men, 2 parents, Mary and Joseph and one star to lead us to the One child.

Thanks for bearing with this very non-traditional Christmas poem. Just to clarify, we are taking a break from student ministries for at least this year. We are excited to see what plans the Lord has for us and are so appreciative of the support of so many over the years. We are praying for a new song in our hearts and new adventures in our future. (And that room of Kt’s is almost done!)

We are wishing each of you all the blessings of Christmas!

The Shengs

Perspsective

I need a little perspective these days! This is a crazy time of year and there are some crazy things happening over here. On the great side, we have Kt's birthday coming up. I'm trying to stay focused and positive on that front because she deserves it! We also have Christmas coming, a couple weeks of break and lots of family rolling into town. Many, many things to be thankful for... including the freedom to celebrate the birth of Christ openly and peacefully.

Today was a gorgeous day here in MD. It's 65 degrees outside right now - and it's 5:30pm!! How I long to live somewhere where the weather is always this nice. I'm so not a cold weather person. In fact, it's kind of depressing for me. While I would have loved to enjoy this warm day, I spent the cooler morning at water aerobics, then ran Em's notecards for her state project to school - she forgot them and then my garage door broke shut. Sounds funny, but it's closed and there's no spring attached to help get it up. This is turning out to be a huge problem!

Add to that, my doctor's appointment today was not much better.My slightly elevated liver enzymes have given me a date with an MRI machine for Christmas - wow. Pretty dismal Christmas present if you ask me. I'm hoping it doesn't yield anything too serious, but now I have that to think about. I kind of wish we really were going away for our 2 weeks off!!

On top of my day, my tree is not decorated yet (can't seem to locate the bag of ornament hangers the girls have misplaced), the lights are not up outside, Kt's room is still not ready - a 4 month project that is just dragging on, and I still have no impetus to write a Christmas letter. Today is not helping. I may just break down and send the pictures without a letter. =( Better than nothing!!

Pray for some Christmas cheer around here!

Bowling Birthday!

T wrote a post about kt's birthday party this Saturday - just one of the many things on my calendar this week! We are excited to make this a fun event for her.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

then... and now

As I was packing the girls' lunches this morning, a couple things popped into my head. I was trying to remember my mom packing our lunches and a startling memory surfaced. She would be packing our lunches in her bathrobe - sometimes. Here are some other things I thought of...

Then... moms could pack lunches in bathrobes and send their walkers off to school alone - even to cross busy streets. Now... I have to get dressed because it's not safe to walk the 300 feet to the bus stop and have my kids wait there alone, in a very safe neighborhood.

Then... moms would have the day to themselves, talking on the phone, watching one of three available TV shows or soaps, doing housework. Now... there are few other moms at home to talk to on the phone, and it's just easier to email, I have too many shows to choose from so I skip TV altogether and the internet is my playground. It eats up a lot of my housework time - need to work on that.

Then... moms who stayed home all day while their kids were in school weren't believed to have nothing to do, and while many did go back to work, it wasn't assumed you would. Now... I just feel guilty when I'm home alone. Period!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

100 Things

From a blogging friend, obasomah.

If you want to play, just copy the list and bold the items you’ve actually done.


1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band middle school band geek
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (nope… Disneyworld, though)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (is cooking an art? I say yes.)
15. Adopted a child (maybe one day…)
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables (I had a peck of peppers when I was a kid!)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train

21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort (many as a child!)
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors Some of them anyway!
35. Seen an Amish communityThe Amish cook some yummy food!
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia (saw it on my way to China)
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma - can't
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten caviar - (served it, but couldn't bring myself to try it!)
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades - (drove by it)
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a mobile phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

(Hmmm... 52, but it gives me some ideas for things I still need to do!)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Mall = Third World Marketplace?

We decided to take a trip to the mall this evening to finish up some Christmas shopping. It was a great idea, considering Tuesday night is not a big "finish up your shopping" night. Either that or the economic woes are finally being felt around here. Most of the mall was manageable, just not the restaurants or movies. They were packed!

Em and I were working our way down to Sephora in search of a granny gift when each kiosk employee decided to shove their wares in our faces and practically beg us to smell, touch, try on whatever it was they were attempting to peddle. Poor Em - we don't often take trips to the mall to begin with, but she was completely overwhelmed. She finally asked me why everyone was stepping in our way and what they were trying to do! I just told her to pretend we were in another country at the market. She thought that was a grand idea!

Seriously, though, I've never experienced that feeling at our local mall. In about 100 yards, we smelled an aroma therapy pack, incense, had a toy helicopter nearly land on our heads, have papers shoved in our paths and just as many unhappy salespeople chide us for not wanting to at least try their crazy contraptions. The mall is becoming a circus with hundreds of rings!

When we finally made it to Sephora, Em looked at me and said, "Can I just sit down? I'm tired." Although, that might have been from her peek at "Santa"!

A Cradle Prayer



Rebecca St. James Lyrics
A Cradle Prayer Lyrics

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Christmas Trees and Santa Claus

I don't really want to spent my whole fun holiday complaining about Grinches, but really.... am I the only person who believes Christmas trees, Santa Claus' and candy canes are NOT religious symbols??? I'll give them a Nativity and a cross, but the rest of it - NOT RELIGIOUS. I think it's silly to forgo the Christmas tree because it represents a religion. It represents people who celebrate Christmas, many who have never stepped foot in a church of any kind. Weird.

Sitemeter

It's December 6th and I have almost 2,000 blog hits just for this month. That's about how many I get all the rest of the year!! I think I need a new Christmas letter!! Or maybe I should start writing Easter, 4th of July and Thanksgiving letters. ;-)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Things

Entitlement is a huge issue in life. So many people feel they are "entitled" to any number of various things... sometimes people. Sometimes they treat people like things. Sometimes they do unimaginable things in the name of what they think they are entitled to. It must be an illness, most likely perpetuated by constantly getting the things they think they're entitled to. Great example: O.J. Simpson.

Talk about someone who, at one time (or many times), received anything he wanted just because he was who he was. He had a talent - he was athletic - and that talent rewarded him with fame, fortune, the beautiful wife, children and innumerable "things" that, in his mind, can never be replaced. He felt, and apparently still feels, like he's entitled to them. It's so bad, that when those things were taken away (or left on their own), he tried to claim them back. Using "stupid", criminal means. Just today, I watched in disbelief, when he, during his bitter diatribe that seems to hint that he's some kind of victim, claimed that he was stupid to think that in the state of Nevada, it is not illegal to storm a meeting with a gang of pals armed to the hilt with firearms. Really? He lost me at "I did not know...."

Just after the verdict, I watched a short interview with Mark Fuhrman, the detective who initially worked on the infamous O.J. case - the one where his ex-wife, mother of his children, and her newfound love, Ron Goldman, were savagely murdered by someone who must have been a very large, athletic man - and he pointed out that O.J. has used the years since that horrific event NOT to turn his life around or create a worthy legacy for himself. Instead, he has consistently been sued, arrested for rage events, and on the wrong side of the law. He plainly stated that today was, unfortunately for O.J., inevitable.

I wonder if today's sentencing was at all cathartic for the Goldman family, who have spent the years since their son's incomprehensible murder agonizingly, painstakingly and fervently making O.J.'s emminent imprisonment their goal. My guess is that it's only a small victory for them, but in the end it will never replace what they, and their son and his friend, lost. There's no happiness in knowing that heart of their object of hate has only hardened and become more self-absorbed since his last day in court.

The lesson here: "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves do not break in and steal." Matt. 6:20. It's pretty simple in writing, pretty unnatural in practice. Focus on life beyond what you have here on earth so that you don't lose focus on the things that are really important. It's not about me or my things.... because if it is, I could end up like O.J. We're really not entitled to have everything we could ever want or desire, and we're warned about the consequences of believing that.

The Letter

The time has come
It came and went
For the Christmas letter
To be written and sent....

"Written" is the part I'm missing.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Humbling

Tonight, I learned of a family whose 11 year old daughter will be taken off life support after collapsing on Monday. She had a sinus infection. Now, it appears she will not make it. They don't really know why or what happened. Sometimes we just don't grasp how fragile life is and how close to death we really are. We just take too many things for granted. I honestly can't imagine losing children and my heart breaks for those parents tonight. Many prayers being said for them and that extended family.

Facebook Frenzy!

I honestly don't know how to explain to kids today just what life was like without "technology". It's much more than the fact that our newfound passion, connecting with old friends we haven't seen for 20 years on Facebook, is sucking the life out of us.... it's the very fact that we had to rely on "total phone" to connect with more than one person at a time when we were not face to face. ("Total phone", for those who are from outside of the pseudo-country of Connecticut, is glorified call-waiting/conference calling.) We didn't have cell phones, texting, computers, emailing or even google. Gosh... life without google?? It seems unimaginable now.

Ever since my 20th high school reunion, I've been reconnecting via Facebook with friends who didn't even make it to the event, or who were there and I didn't actually see them in the standing room only, shoulder-to-shoulder venue. I'm totally overwhelmed by the expansive connections I'm able to make in a short amount of time, miles away. I love it! I'll admit it - it's addictive, because I'm a Connector. I completely laughed out loud when my most recent reconnected friend mentioned that he heard at our reunion that "those without FB are the new lepers" - a stretch, but funny nonetheless. Just trying to fathom the possibilities that social networking presents with technology the way it is - it is almost frightening. Frighteningly fascinating!!

Fortunately, I was able to fit in a few chores today whilst writing on walls, poking some folks and updating my status for all my friends to see. I need to get a life.... but am enjoying my online one in the meantime!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

40,000th Visitor

Had my 40,000th blog visitor today from Alberta, Canada. Of course, the referral was that Christmas Letter Tips blog where most of my visits come from these days. I've been getting about 250+ hits a day from that. Must have been a good letter. Too bad those creative juices are drying up. =( I've been mulling around a Dr. Seuss type letter... just don't know if that's that way to go. Would I? Could I? In a house? Oh... that's just bad.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Jupiter and Venus and a Waxing Crescent

You should check this out tonight if you can!

Advent Conspiracty

I have seen this everywhere - have you?

Africa: AIDS, Poverty, Us

Here is a great post from Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church. Are you OK with this?

PICTURES!!!













It's been a while since I've posted any, so here goes! These are pictures of my brother's "new" 300 year old house and his wonderful photography of the girls in various locations around his house/barn/well/field. Fun! Enjoy!

Thanksgiving

"Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of the dry ground.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah 53:1-6


As I sat down last night to choose pictures and something to share with our friends for this Christmas season, this passage came to mind. Don't worry - T and I agreed it was a bit much for a Christmas card!! Especially for our friends who don't really celebrate the real reason we celebrate CHRISTmas at all. So, I chose something a bit less heavy.

I love that we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas right next to each other. Thanksgiving puts us in the right mood for what's coming next and helps us to see what we have in our lives that is much more meaningful than things. It really puts some good perspective on earthly and heavenly blessings.

This past week, I have spent time with my family, traveled, met up with old high school friends at my 20th high school reunion (talk about feeling old!) and returned to my life back here in Maryland. That is a lot to absorb in less than a week, but it surely made me thankful for some things - like a job, a home, two wonderful children, a supportive and grounded husband, a relatively drama free family - and regretful about other things - not staying in touch with old friends, struggling with the spiritual desert I feel like I'm in, coming to grips with my inability to initiate connectedness. I am a complex creature who is thankful for a God who not only created me that way but wants to use me just as I am. Crazy, but he has done it before.

These verses above have been repeatedly presented to me throughout this year. This happens to me now and then, and I think God does this to make a point. These verses make me sad, sometimes they make me feel guilty, other times they offer hope. The one part that always stands out to me... nothing in his appearance that we should desire him... helps me to focus on what is important. So much of our influence is not how we look or appear but what we do. In this case, what he did was truly unimaginable, incomprehensible, unbelievable... so much so, that so many cannot accept it for what it is. He was, and still is, rejected for the very ones he came to love and save.

I am so thankful but I rarely do anything to show it. I hope to do more this year and not be trapped by my beliefs that others have different expectations. I serve an audience of one, and He is all I need, all I strive to please, has looked worse than me on my worst day! I have no excuses, and neither do you!

Monday, November 24, 2008

All I Want for Christmas is.....

Every year I ask the girls to make Christmas lists. This year, with the help of my 5th grader and her propensity for lists, the girls have made hysterical, exhaustive lists of all they want for Christmas. As I laughed through them, of course I thought you would enjoy knowing what was on them. I'm going to share them for their humorous value and nothing else (I don't want anyone sending me Pixie Sticks in the mail!!).

I must first share with you that Kt included clip art on her list printout. If you feel the need to make a list of your own and you'd like a Santa up on top and a Christmas tree complete with presents on the bottom, let me know and I'll forward you the document. Just make sure you have 15 things to list, and don't worry, if you have more you can add more spaces, just like my girls did!

Kt's Christmas List

* = I want the most

*1. iPod
*2. Vara Bradly Purse
3. Drums
4. Cell phone
5. Girl spy stuff
*6. chocolate! chocolate! chocolate!
7. lots of Aero shirts
8. a kerioke(?) machiene thing
9. movies
10. Mama Mia CD
11. Carrie Underwood CD
12. lots of clothes
13. candy
14. books
15. some gift cards to like anywhere!
16. and some hair/nal/makeup stuff
17. go on some over seas missons trip

Thank you!!!!!
TTLY
You're Awesome!!!

Emily's Christmas List

(she has written "I (heart)" above Santa)

* means I want more

*1. iPod
*2. lizard
3. fish
*4. air hockey table
*5. laptop
*6. a miny car
*7. phon
*8. Vera Bradly wallit
9. chocolate
*10. wish I got wat I wish for
11. chocolate and more chocolate
12. shoger
*13. pixe stiks
14. more candy
15. a fun Christmas

Thank you!!!

Now... the air hockey table is very suspicious, as we picked one up (used) to give the girls. I guess we can't surprise them!! I seems that Kt, although told not to peek, did so anyway and is going to try to peg it on her little sister, who admitted to me what happened and begged me not to say anything about it! Stinkers. I'm going to send back that iPod right now! ;-) I'm also thinking of instituting a rule that if you can't spell it, you can't have it! I'm such a mean Santa!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Personally, I'd Like to be Red!




You Should Live in a Purple State



Your preferences are 50% Blue, 50% Red

You may not be a swing voter, but you feel comfortable around moderate people.



You tend to do best in states with a red and blue mix - like Nevada and North Carolina.

You are adaptable. You can converse with a church crowd as easily as with grad students.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Patriot or Loyalist?

We give up!! It's times like these I really wish my dad, the family history buff (and major), were around for some guidance. At the very least, he would have LOVED the challenge of figuring this one out with us. Kt, T and I have been researching all week whether or not her "Catholic Baltimore shipbuilder" during Colonial times was a patriot or loyalist and I believe we are all agreeing to give up. It's quite pathetic of us, but if two adults and one freakishly smart 10 year old can't find the answer anywhere, we just aren't going to find it! I don't believe one actually existed.

So, are you smarter than a fifth grader?? I'm not!